The Alarm Dispels a Dream
It's not common for me to remember my dreams anymore. That has changed since the surgery. Some of that is a function of not being able to sleep well since then, partially due to the bag demanding my attention all the time, even at night. I sometimes don't get to sleep for more than three hours at a stretch. I often get enough physical rest from sleep, now, but not always dreams. Or they're too fleeting to remember upon awakening. Mostly they're of this semi-random type of dream, not obviously lucid or communicative.
I like this dream because it involves music. It makes me remember the time my father and I went to see Gilels at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor. He performed a first half of Impressionistic and modern pieces, Debussy, Scriabin, some others. The entire second half of the concert was devoted to Mussourgsky's original solo piano version of Pictures at an Exhibition. Gilels played it dramatically, powerfully, beautifully. The music was a revelation in itself, and his performance was one of the most memorable concerts of my young life.
I'm an artist who is used to mining his dream life for images, ideas, narratives, poems, music. I have a vivid imagination, and use both my experiences, including dreams, and my imagination in my art, etc. I've read of artists and scientists receiving solutions to puzzles in their dreams, or the last image or idea needed to make something complete and working. I think we undervalue our dreams when we dismiss them too quickly as just night-vapours. Dreams are relevant to all aspects of our lives. They're the royal road to the subconscious, as Freud put it in one of his more poetic moments. Dreams do much more than simply recycle the day's trashload of events, as some claim. In your dreams, the gods can speak to you directly; or those aspects of yourself deep in your unconscious mind, your shadow, your inner self, who normally isn't available during waking hours. The ancients used to call those inner voices the gods; nowadays, we have more psychological labels for such things. But even if it's just self talking to self, if you pay attention, you can learn a great deal. And you can find some deep wells, in dreams, into that river of creative force that is always flowing, deep underground.
I'm trying not to bothered by having a reduced dream life. I do think it makes a difference to my waking life, whether or not my dream life is active. People have sometimes asked me if my dreams are sometimes more vivid than others, if there's a continuum. But my dreams have always been vivid, been in color. Sometimes they're lucid dreams, sometimes they're so incredibly vivid and real that I am disoriented upon waking. Chuang Tzu's famous question often has relevance to me: Am I a man who dreamt last night that he was a butterfly, or am I a now butterfly dreaming he is a man? Honestly, sometimes it's hard to tell.
In the mornings, I'm often slow to get going. I spend at least some time every morning meditating, reading scared literature, thinking about creative work, doing Reiki on myself. (Lately, mostly on those parts of me still healing from the recent illness and surgery.) I don't listen to music that has words in it, as that pulls me too quickly into my left brain. I need to linger in my right brain for awhile upon waking, absorbing and writing down dreams if I can, otherwise just letting the imagination go wherever it wants. I contemplate the light on the trees. I listen to the wind. I actively, as the Zen expression says, do Nothing.
I take my time in the mornings, whenever possible. I take at least the time it takes to savor and sip a mug of tea. This morning process—it's not really a routine, and it's less than a formal ritual, but it's more than just a habit—makes for a much better day. When I'm on the road, sometimes the morning's departure preparations mean I have to put off this contemplative time till I've left; then, for awhile, setting out on the morning's drive, I do my morning contemplations.
It concerns me a little that my dream life has been affected by surgery, anaesthesia, recovery, not sleeping the way I used to. I value my dream life, for inspiration and more, and I don't want to lose it. Maybe when this process is all done, after all the surgeries to come, and I can sleep on my belly again, things will return to normal, or a new normal. A lot of my life is still in flux, in transition, not certain of outcomes. More questions than answers. I hope my dreams come back stronger, eventually. I hope for many things.